With the latest wave of terror attacks carried out by mentally deranged individuals who pledge their allegiance to ISIS, your inclination to support the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country and even deporting them, may be getting stronger. You may have wondered, “if Muslims are inherently violent, wouldn’t America be safer without them? What benefit do they add to our society? Why do we need Muslims in America?”
But before I begin, I’d like to briefly discuss the history of Muslims in American so that you’ll understand that they have deep roots in this land and are in fact not foreigners at all.
Muslims came to America before this great nation was born and certainly many generations before your parents arrived. There is historical evidence that Muslims from Spain and North Africa arrived in the Americas a few centuries before Columbus did and if it weren’t for the maps and navigational information generated by these Muslims, Columbus may have never made a successful journey across the Atlantic.
Our Founding Fathers also encountered Muslims centuries ago. Thomas Jefferson studied the Quran and was the first person to offer Iftar (a meal to break a fast) at the White House for a Tunisian ambassador. Jefferson also drafted a bill establishing religious freedom, in which he specifically addressed Muslims. In essence, he was the first American advocate of Muslims’ right to practice their religion.
It was through slavery that the largest number of Muslims made their way to America. Up to 30 percent of the 10 million slaves that came were Muslim, and although they were eventually pressured to convert to Christianity, many preserved their cultural and Muslim traditions.
You may be unaware that Muslims also fought in the Revolutionary War and in the Civil war. It is estimated that approximately 292 Muslims fought in the Civil War. On a side note, there are currently approximately 5,900 active Muslim duty members in the U.S. armed forces.
Another wave of Muslim immigrants, this time from the Middle East, began to arrive in the late 1800s and mosques across the U.S. were established in the early 1900s.
So, contrary to popular belief, Muslims are a strong part of the fabric of this great nation.
Now back to our question: “ Why do we need Muslims in America?”
First of all, we are generally people of good character and compassion.
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet a Muslim, you may have noticed that they are kind, courteous, and respectful. This is because we are taught by the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, that displaying good character is the best form of worship. The Prophet stated that “On the Day of Resurrection, nothing will be heavier on the scale of good deeds than good conduct,” and that “the most beloved to God are those who have the best manners”. It was reported that a man once asked the Prophet “what is religion?” and the Prophet replied “Religion is good conduct.”
Like State Farm, we are good neighbors.
There are numerous teachings from the Prophet encouraging Muslims to be the best of neighbors. The Prophet narrated, “By the One in whose Hands is my soul, no slave of God has true faith unless he loves for his neighbor what he loves for himself” and “he who believes in God and the Last Day, let him be kind to his neighbor, show hospitality to his guest, and speak good or remain silent.” The Prophet also stated, “a believer is not the one who eats his fill while his neighbor goes hungry.”
We are generous.
Giving charity (zakat) is a religious obligation that all Muslims must fulfill. We are required to give 2.5 percent of our wealth yearly to sustain the needy and are taught that giving charity both increases and purifies one’s wealth, and protects one from calamities. We believe the rich will be held accountable for the poor by God. In fact, research has suggested that Muslims give the most in charity than any other religious group.
We are peaceful and tolerant.
You may be rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath at this one, but history proves this is certainly true. For centuries, Muslims, Jews, and Christians have coexisted peacefully and there are many examples in history where other faiths sought refuge with Muslims. Only with the recent disruption of geopolitics in the Middle East has violence erupted in the region, unfortunately carried out in the name of religion. In early Islamic history, the Prophet Muhammed drafted a treaty to protect and provide religious freedom to Jews and non-Muslims in an Arab land. He also wrote a covenant granting protection and many rights to Christians. When early Muslims were being persecuted in Mecca, the Prophet advised his followers to seek refuge with Christians in Ethiopia. The Prophet said, “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against that person on the Day of Judgment.”